For a long time, I believed that courage is being fearless. I realized the opposite was true during a family trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Our family decided to do zip lining, and I am afraid of heights. The first zipline was a practice run just 8 feet above the ground. I stood on the platform remaining terrified to put the first step forward. I felt my legs shake uncontrollably. My heart was pounding. I could hear my breathing and felt the churn in my stomach. I closed my eyes and took the leap of faith by putting my step forward and completed it with a sigh of relief. Did that experience eliminate my fear or make me ready to conquer every zipline? NO. The next zip line was 50 ft. above the ground and the last one was 400 ft above the ground. Each time I remained terrified, felt the churn in the stomach and did it anyway. However, by the
end, I felt proud of completing the course.
I learned several things from that experience. I realized that courage was not about becoming fearless.
It was about remaining fearful and doing it anyway. This is different from being careless. Before every zip line jump, my mind was calculating the risk. I could see the harness, professionals monitoring you, safety protocols in place, and little kids jumping off without fear, and then my mind brought up all the inherent risks of something going wrong. I could see the safety side of things, but the likelihood of one of the safety measures breaking down was unknown. The consequences ranged from breaking my bones, dying due to fall, or having fun and feeling the thrill. I had a choice to remain terrified and quit or have a memorable life experience. At that moment I asked myself the ultimate question “what’s the worst that could happen?” If I can live with the answer then I’ll go ahead and take the leap remaining fearful but doing it anyway.
Now I apply that at work. There are times in my day when I think, “should I send this email or not?”, “Should I speak up?”, “what’s the risk involved?”, “what will others think about?”, “what if people don’t approve of it?”, “what if I made a wrong decision?”, “what if I don’t get selected?”. I go to my ultimate question “what is the worst going to happen? I accept the answer and willingly take the risk. I remain fearful and do it anyways. That attitude has helped me grow both professionally and personally. Almost 99% of the time the “what-ifs” scenario I had played in my mind never actually happen. In many life circumstances, we remain at the edge of being fearful, not taking a calculated risk, and ruminating over “should have” “could have”. We remain stuck in our heads thinking that someday we will have the courage to speak up, share our thoughts, be visible, get to become who we are. That “someday” never comes as in the effort to avoid fear we never take the step. Remaining open to taking the calculated risks and the willingness to accept the worst that may happen can propel you forward. I welcome all of you to sign up for the thought that courage is not becoming fearless but it is remaining fearful and doing it anyway.